Chapter 34: Make Me Proud
"There's no fucking way you stood up to Tess!" Rachel shouted. I chuckled and held onto my belly. "Fuck yeah she did," Danny said proudly. "Mean ass Maw maw Tess?" Mel asked, making sure that she heard him right. "It's about fucking time someone put her in her place. I couldn't imagine growing up around someone like her," Jamie said, sounding relieved. Throughout the years, all of them had also felt her wrath, so they knew how big this milestone was for me and my mom.
Tess was a lot nicer over the course of the next few days. She spent time with Mom and I, preparing for Fauna's arrival and tying up some loose ends for graduation. Unfortunately, she would ask us time and time again about where Candace was and what was going on with her and we decided to keep our mouths shut. That was a conversation that she was going to have to have with Candace and Aunt Lil.
We'd found out that Candace was going to be able to graduate with us. It was probably only because Mount View was ready to get rid of her and just hand over her diploma like they did with a lot of the kids we went to school with. It was sad, but at least we could be happy that she had one of the many keys she would need to get somewhere in life. I had stopped worrying about what she was going to do and if she was going to get clean. She was the only one that had to live with those decisions and it was out of my hands. I didn't need that stress anymore.
For the first time in a long time, she reached out to Rachel to gather all of us up together at Reggie's. I didn't know what she had to say or what she wanted, but I decided that it wasn't going to phase me and pull me back into her bullshit. I had gotten off of her merry go round a long time ago and I felt ten times lighter ever since.
I sat with my swollen feet propped up in Danny's lap with everyone else on the porch. Flora was passed out. The beaming sun didn't bother her and on the inside, I was freaking out and terrified that she was going to get sun burnt. Reggie and Danny rambled on about having kids and how odd it felt to become responsible for another human being, especially when they didn't have to haul them around for nine months. Reggie was trying his best to scare Danny with what happened when Rachel went into labor and gave birth. "Syd already told me you acted like a little bitch!" he yelled, causing Derek to nearly fall over laughing.
Us girls were pretty quiet. We were always like this when Candace summoned us. I think we were all afraid to see how bad she had gotten since the last time we all saw her. It was painful to watch no matter how much I wanted to act like it didn't bother me anymore. I wanted to wash my hands of her, but my heart would never let me.
"And like the whole school knew Syd was pregnant way before she even started showing," Derek said, pulling my attention to their conversation. "I heard she was about to murder Kelsey Marcum. Did you really fuck her?" Reggie said jokingly as he turned toward Danny. We could all tell that he didn't appreciate the joke. "I'd saw my dick off first. She only said that shit because somebody had already told her that Syd was pregnant. Me and Syd left her birthday party together that night," he snapped. "We all knew she was pregnant the night of the party. Your girl's got some balls," Rachel said as she laughed boastfully. I couldn't help but laugh myself when the memory of that night drifted into my mind. "Well, who said something about it?" I asked, curious as to how the news got out in the first place. The only person I could even think about putting my business out in the streets just to be spiteful was Candace.
"It was me,"a familiar voice admitted. We all turned our heads to the driveway and I was right. "Well, it's too late to be mad about it now. The baby will be here before we know it," Danny said quickly. He had saw the expression on my face and wanted to diffuse the situation before it could escalate. I wasn't mad about it anymore. I wasn't going to give anyone my energy when I was slowly gearing myself up to push a baby out. Rachel, Mel, Jamie, and I locked our eyes on her.
"Long time. No see," we all said simultaneously. "Yeah, I know. I look like shit," she said, holding her hands up. From where I was sitting, I couldn't see any blood or bruises in the creases of her arms. My heart burst in a sprint and I was hoping that she was finally clean. I even eyed her neck just to be sure that I wasn't getting my hopes up. She didn't have a single track mark in her usual places. She was still fairly skinny, but she wasn't sporting the familiar bags under her eyes. Her cheeks were flushed and her skin wasn't sweaty. She wasn't jittery or dragging around like a zombie.
"I just wanted you all to know that I'm done with that shit," she announced. I tilted my head, hinting that she was bluffing. "For good this time," she added quickly. "I just want to be there for my nieces," she said with a half smile. I didn't want to get my hopes up. "You guys were right all along. I don't want to end up just a dead body in a ditch somewhere. I want to live and see what life has to offer." I quickly looked at the rest of my friends and they were as lost as I was. Danny, Reggie, and Derek all gave each other a look. "We'll leave you guys alone. Holler if you need anything," Danny said as he stood up and kissed the top of my head. Fauna rolled around inside me and I felt a few small cramps in my lower belly. A few minutes later, I felt them again, but I wasn't about to let it worry me.
"I'm sorry for all of this. I can't believe I've missed out on so much. I've felt like I was in a fucking fog," Candace said as she rubbed her face with both hands. It was just the two of us on the porch. Rachel had went to put Flora down for the night and Mel, Jamie, and Derek all took off. It had gotten pretty late, but I couldn't bring myself to head home. I was trying to gain new pleasant memories with Candace and I was praying that they wouldn't make me blind to all of the bad ones.
"You didn't miss much. Tess is here, but I set her straight," I said with a chuckle. Another comfortable twinge shot through my pelvis and I re-positioned myself in the chair to help the pain subside. "Thank God. Now I have to face the music. I haven't talked to Mom in a hot minute," she said, sounding a little relieved. "Well, you need to. Make things right with her," I said, sounding like my own mother. "Right. How do you apologize for the things I've done? 'Sorry for being a fiend, Mom. Never meant to hurt you'?" she asked sarcastically. "You'll figure it out," I said through gritted teeth as my uterus cramped again.
"I never meant to hurt you either Syd," she said softly. I wanted to believe that her apology was sincere. I couldn't deny the fact that I had truly missed her. I wanted so badly to save her and it was heartbreaking when I had to face the face that I just couldn't do it. For the longest time, I thought that I was going to have to enter the journey of motherhood without one of my best friends there to give my daughter the extra love she deserved. I knew that Candace was capable of giving that to her and this moment was everything that I needed.
I opened my mouth to respond to her with tears swelling up in my eyes when I felt warmth pooling between myself. I could hear the sound of liquid hitting the concrete on the porch. I glanced down to find the liquid dripping from where I was sitting. "Oh fuck," I said quietly. I pushed myself onto my feet to stand up and it felt like I had sprung a leak. "Syd, did you just piss on yourself?" Candace asked, raising one eyebrow. I held onto my belly as a contraction ripped through my body, causing me to double over.
"Danny! Reg!" she screamed. I felt her hand on my back as I tried to breathe through the pain. "DANNY! REGGIE! GET YOUR ASSES OUT HERE!" she screamed even louder. The pain faded away by the time I heard Danny come running onto the porch. "What's wrong?" Danny said quickly. He was at my side, helping me stand up straight again. I breathed heavily as I tried to get myself together. "Sydney, baby, what's wrong?" he asked, holding my face in his hands. That contraction had taken everything out of me and I felt my legs grow weaker by the minute. Just when I thought that I was going to be able to get myself together, another contraction made me feel like I was being stabbed in my lower back and stomach at the same time. This one caused me to fall to my knees and I was sure that I was going to have bruises when this was all over. More fluid gushed out of me, creating a puddle underneath me and there wasn't a doubt in my mind that my water had broken and Fauna would be here before we knew it.
"WE'RE TAKING ON WATER! IT'S GO TIME!" Candace shouted. "CANDACE! WHY THE FUCK ARE YOU SCREAMING!" Rachel yelled as she stormed out onto the porch. "Those damn drugs have her talking like a sailor," Reggie joked. Rachel punched him in the arm and I swear, it sounded like she growled at him. "Get upstairs with the baby!" she ordered. He went inside like a dog with his tail tucked between his legs. "Syd is in labor!" Candace shouted, throwing her arms into the air. She and Danny crouched down, hooking their arms under mine, and pulled me back up on my feet. The pain disappeared once more, but my breathing had become much more ragged.
"You have to breathe, baby," he said, trying to calm me. I wasn't in the mood for his shit and the normal bullshit that you saw in movies when a woman went into labor. "I swear to God, I'll kill you," I snapped, "just get me to the fucking hospital!" I ordered. All of the energy in my body was being sapped with each contraction. The pain was unreal and I couldn't believe that it was time.
"Mommy's here. It's going to be alright," Mom said, stroking my hair when she came bursting into the delivery room. "She doesn't have any drug allergies. She wants pain meds, skin to skin, no breastfeeding, and she doesn't smoke, so don't try that bullshit. You fuckers like to judge young moms. She and that baby will be well taken care of,"Danny barked at the nurse on duty. Unfortunately, it wasn't Bre. I would have been much more calm about the situation if she were here to help me. Candace stepped out of the room after explaining to Mom what happened and reassured her that my water broke when I was just sitting on the porch.
"You can do this. It'll be over before you know it," Danny said, trying to keep me calm. "It hurts so bad," I whined. Tears were streaming from the corners of my eyes and my anxiety went into overdrive when I thought about how bad the next contraction would be. Two whole hours had passed with me laying there, writhing in pain. He and my mom held my hands through it all.
"You're at a seven," the nurse said happily. I had seen this one around a few times. She was older, but probably around Mom's age. "Dr. Carter is on his way," she said. I closed my eyes and could feel her dabbing my forehead with a cool washcloth. Another contraction was creeping up on me. When it peaked, I arched my back and thrashed my body on the bed. I didn't even realize that I had released a blood curdling scream. I probably looked like they were performing an exorcism on me, but I couldn't help it. The only thing I could do besides scream was stare at the clock on the wall and count how much time passed between each contraction. It had gotten down to only a few seconds. I was getting close to meeting my daughter, but I was also growing worried. The quicker the contractions came meant that I was going to dilate faster. If I dilated too quickly, I wasn't going to be able to get an epidural.
Just the thought of experiencing the pain any longer caused me to sob. I had had my fair share of bumps and bruises and I always thought that I had a pretty high pain tolerance. But being in labor shut that shit down real fast.
"Yes or no?" Danny asked me with his lips at my ear. I was in a haze between contractions at this point and I hadn't caught the beginning of what he was trying to ask me. "Speak now or forever hold your peace. Do you want the epidural?" he asked quickly. I was dilated to seven centimeters and based on the horror stories I heard about getting a needle shoved in your back to be numb from the waist down and potentially slow things down, I was about to make a bold decision. "Hell no! Get her out!" I shouted. The room grew silent and everyone looked at me like I had completely lost my mind.
Within minutes, the nurse announced that I had made it to ten. I was still screaming and thrashing like a maniac. Danny's hand was turning blue and was neatly decorated with teeth marks. Every time his hand got close to my mouth, I would bite the shit out of him with every single contraction. They were coming too fast for me to be able to catch my breath. Having an oxygen mask put over my nose and mouth only caused me to freak out even more, but at least I could breathe. I had started hyperventilating and I was getting lightheaded.
Dr. Carter stepped into the room wearing what looked like an isolation gown. He was covered from head to toe in the blue tissue paper material with gloves over both hands. The bed had been elevated and Mom and Danny were bracing themselves to hold my legs. I didn't think I could hang on much longer, but I was right at the finish line. All I needed to do was pray that I only had to push a few times and she would be in my arms.
I stared at the clock once more. We were coming in on five hours and I was surprised by how fast time had flown by. I was afraid that it would actually take twelve hours like they tried to get me to believe in the beginning. I guess I had the four flights of stairs to take in school every day to thank for that.
The sudden pressure on my rectum pulled me from my thoughts and I nearly climbed off of the table. I felt like I needed to get to the bathroom as quickly as possible because I had to take the biggest shit of my life. Sweat rolled off of my skin and I noticed how soaked the sheet was underneath me. "Sydney, the baby is crowning! You have to push as hard as you can when you feel a contraction!" he ordered. I took a deep breath and did as I was told. The nurse standing beside me counted to ten, just like they did with Rachel. I held my breath through each second, exhaling harshly afterwards.
"Oh my God," Danny murmured when he looked down where the doctor was standing. I was beginning to feel like I was being split apart. The skin between my holes felt like they had been set on fire. "Her hair! I can see her hair!" he said to my mom in disbelief. He was teary eyed and as anxious as I was. From the corner of my eye, Mom was covering her mouth with her hand, also sporting tears in her eyes. My heart fluttered. That gave me all the strength I needed for one last push. I think seeing how excited he was made me fall in love with him even more.
I bared down, tucking my chin into my chest, and gave it my all, screaming the entire time.
I felt like every bit of my insides had been pulled out. But the sound of a soft whimper followed by high-pitched crying sent my emotions over the edge. I took one final glance at the clock on the wall. "Six o'clock on the dot," I whispered. I felt the weight of my baby girl being placed on my chest. I had to kick start my brain to lift my arms to be able to hold her. It felt like my soul had left my body for a second and I was in total disbelief of what had just happened.
I glanced down and was met with the most breathtaking, little round face that I had ever seen. I couldn't control myself and I began to sob uncontrollably. "My baby," I wailed as I continued to cry. She looked up at me, locking a familiar pair of gray eyes and batting a set of insanely long eyelashes at me. She had stopped crying and was now staring at me in awe. "My baby," I said again. That was the only thing I could say. I finally had my baby in my arms and I couldn't believe it. She never took her little eyes off of me and she had stopped crying. She looked at me like she knew me but was trying to remember where she knew me from.
Her little hand stuck out from underneath the receiving blanket. I took the opportunity to hold it against my cheek with one hand while I cradled her in my arm. "I'm your mama," I said proudly with a wide smile. Her skin wasn't as pink as I thought it would be. She didn't even look gray or white like some babies did when the were born. I could see the tint of her skin that was the perfect mixture between mine and Danny's skin tone even though it was still covered with the white waxy substance that all babies were born with. Her little nose was like a little button, something she definitely got from me and her head was covered with thick jet black hair. I was relieved. She had most of my features and I was always told that she would come out looking exactly like Danny because we fought so much when I was pregnant.
"I'm so proud of you, baby," Danny said. He kissed my forehead and let his lips linger there as the two of us stared at our daughter."You did fantastic." Dr. Carter allowed Danny to cut her umbilical cord and let us get back to falling in love with our newborn. "Congratulations, you guys," he said. He smiled and ripped off the gown that was covering his clothes before exiting the room.
I should have been too exhausted to keep my eyes open, but I had a full bladder, I was starving, and I was entirely too excited to hold my baby again after she was done getting weighed, bathed, and vaccinated. Friends and family members were coming in and out like my room was a revolving door. The nurses were in and out to check my bleeding. No one told me that postpartum bleeding was like having ten periods at once. My uterus continued to contract in order to shrink back to normal and I swear it was worse than the actual labor. Plus I was getting pretty annoyed by the fact that I was bleeding like a stuck pig.
By the end of the night, Danny had helped me shower, wash my hair, and change into a large white v-neck shirt and a pair of flannel pajamas. He knew that that was my favorite attire when it was time for me to wind down for bed. He was going the extra mile to show that he appreciated everything I went through to bring our child into this world. He'd never underestimated me in the past or questioned my strength in the past, but after seeing me in labor, he was shook.
"Our sweet girl is finally here," I said softly. The three of us were curled up in the bed. Danny and I couldn't take our eyes off of Fauna. She looked like the perfect little baby doll. She was fast asleep while the two of us sat gawking at her. "Our little miracle," he said, smiling. "We had one hell of a ride, but it was definitely a miracle." The entire day felt like something out of a movie where everything gets chaotic before finally settling down for the happily ever after. But, it wasn't a movie and as I traced my index finger over nearly every inch of her little face, I realized that this was my life now. It was definitely going to get better from here on out.